Requirements for Banking in Costa Rica Become Similar to the U.S. posted by on May 23, 2012
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Author’s Note: This article should not be considered legal advice. Readers with questions on the matters explained below should contact attorneys who are in good standing with the Colegio de Abogados de Costa Rica (the National Bar Association).

The Superintendency of Financial Entities in Costa Rica (SUGEF in Spanish) has recently made amendments to the rulemaking scheme as it applies to Article 15 of Law 8204, which covers several issues pertaining to anti-money laundering efforts, particularly with regard to drug trafficking and terrorism. The most recent changes have prompted public officials such as the Minister of Public Safety, the Director of Immigration, and the Central Bank’s Financial Services Director to go on the press circuit with their thoughts on the matter.

At the center of the new rules is the new identification card for foreigners, DIMEX. Speaking to Radio Reloj 94.3 FM, Director of Immigration Kattia Rodriguez explained that the new DIMEX card, which will become a requirement for banking operations, is modeled after the “green card” used in the United States -a smart card with micro-characters, a bar code, and a specific 12-digit numbering system that identifies foreigners with their country of origin and immigration status.

Another American financial measure that is being mimicked to an extent in Costa Rica is “Know Your Customer” (KYC). The Minister of Public Safety Mario Zamora, who was once Director of Immigration, has been using the literal translation of KYC (conozca a su cliente) in various occasions lately. KYC was strengthened in the United States through legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bank Secrecy Act.

Carlos Melegatti, Financial Services Director of the Central Bank mentioned that the new DIMEX will allow authorities in Costa Rica to track the banking transactions of foreigners in Costa Rica. In the past, this new measure was postponed until July 12, 2012, and it only applied to foreign residents who wished to make transactions through the Sistema Nacional de Pagos Electrónicos (SINPE). This system allows for easy bank transfers in Costa Rica, and foreign residents would have to present a DIMEX card to be in compliance with the national anti-money laundering law. The Costa Rica Star explained this issue when answering a question from a reader last year.

Director Rodriguez also explained that all foreigners, regardless of their status, will be required to get a DIMEX card. She did not specifically mention tourists who in the past have been able to open bank accounts, or those who obtained immigration status by becoming principals of a business entity. A recent amendment by SUGEF to existing rules for foreigners banking in Costa Rica provides a strict process of identification for individuals who systematically or substantially engage in international bank transfers, trust account management, or transactions higher than $100,000. This amendment, however, equally applies to citizens of Costa Rica.

Director Melegatti also mentioned that in the past foreigners from other Central American nations have been able to open accounts with just a passport, and that the new DIMEX requirement will do away with this practice. Other initiatives are in the works to increase the oversight and security of the already intricate banking transactions in Costa Rica, such as new digital certificates and electronic signature requirements.

DIMEX is hardly a new document. Most foreigners who obtained residency status (even conditional) after 2008 already have such a card in their wallets or purses. Those who obtained cards before then will have six months to switch to DIMEX and present the new cards to their banks. To this extent, Director Rodriguez mentioned that, starting in June, the National Postal Service will help with this endeavor as part of its modernization plan. The change will cost individuals between $98 and $123. Over the next four months, 40 more post offices around Costa Rica will also be able to process DIMEX cards.

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Costa Rica aspires to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development posted by on May 23, 2012

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla on Tuesday reaffirmed the country’s intentions of joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

During a tour of Europe, Chinchilla participated in Paris as a speaker at a forum titled “A Better Quality of Life 2.0,” organized by the OECD. Chinchilla said her country is committed to participating in the group, where major economic and development decisions are made.

“The OECD has been a beacon in our journey towards development, and for more than half a century has provided guidance, analysis, reflection and inspiration,” she said.

The forum’s focus is discussing actions to achieve better living conditions for the world’s residents, and Chinchilla referred to three main areas that Costa Rica could work with the OECD: social investment, protection of the planet and free-trade promotion.

Chinchilla will be in Europe until May 31 to promote cooperation between Central America and the EU and to attract investment. After France, she is scheduled to visit Germany, Italy, and the Vatican, where she will meet with Pope Benedict XVI.

Last year, the OECD removed Costa Rica from its list of “tax havens,” where the country had appeared since 2009.
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Costa Rica a divine spot for even the mildly adventurous posted by on May 23, 2012

From Pavones, one of the longest left-hand waves in the world, to Witches Rock, a 12-foot-high, 300-yard-long wave featured in “Endless Summer,” Costa Rica has some of the best surfing known to humanity.

And if none of that registers with you, don’t worry.

Because while this surf mecca attracts the world’s best, it’s also great for beginners. My travel partner had never picked up a surfboard in her life. By the end of the vacation, she was ripping it up. So, if you’re curious about surfing and looking for a vacation that’s part adventure, part exercise and all relaxation, buy a round-trip ticket to San Jose, rent a four-wheel drive with a roof rack and tour Costa Rica’s west coast.

My main advice is travel during the dry season (mid-December to mid-May) and don’t worry about trying to find the “best” spot. There’s plenty of beautiful beach and surf to go around. Here’s a quick hit on my favorite locales.

Montezuma

Montezuma is not a great surf destination, but it’s a great place to start your adventure.

A five-hour drive from San Jose, Montezuma will wash off the stress and dust of travel and settle you into the beach mentality that Costa Rica locals call pura vida. Home to some of the most exotic beachside restaurants, bars and night life in Costa Rica, this artist-commune hamlet is known for its healing arts and yoga communities, eco-tourism lodges and canopy tours. It also hosts the annual Costa Rica International Film Festival, which attracts top filmmakers and talent from around the globe.

Hotels range from $10 a night for a dorm bed and a shared bathroom at the clean and eclectic Hotel Lucy, right on the waterfront, to $300 a night at Ylang Ylang, which offers secluded romantic private beachside bungalows, a pool, a spa and daily yoga classes. Cheap eats are found at the Bakery Cafe (one of our favorite breakfast spots), or enjoy an upscale romantic meal at Playa De Los Artistas right on the beach. The cuisine is Mediterranean, and the ingredients are always fresh.

Mal Pais

Many towns in Costa Rica are known for surfing, but Mal Pais is one of the few that is quintessentially surf. It’s also a favorite spot for celebrities. Forbes Magazine calls this place one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. But in spite of the stardust, Mal Pais is a laid-back, noncommercial getaway that delivers great surf.

If you’ve never been on a surfboard, take a lesson (all the schools in Mal Pais are good). Once you get the basics, rent the longest board you can find — there are surf board rental shops all over town — and ask the locals to send you to a beach with waves of about 2 to 3 feet.

Lodging prices in Mal Pais are the same as you’ll find in most beach towns in Costa Rica. If you want to go cheap, you can find cheap. If you want to spend money, you can do that too. But don’t rely too heavily on your guidebook. Ask the locals if they can recommend a good spot; it’s all part of the adventure. On our trip, we didn’t book anything in advance, nor did we stay in hotels. We just asked locals if they knew a good place to stay, and we consistently found fantastic private bungalows that were affordable and almost always on the beach.

Nosara

In contrast to the earthy surfing mecca of Mal Pais and the hippy eccentricity of Montezuma, Nosara is the oldest expatriate community in Costa Rica. And in spite of its dirt roads and rustic feel, it attracts visitors from all walks of life.

And it’s no wonder, because this spot has a lot to offer. The Nosara Yoga Institute is top-notch professional career yoga training center known throughout the world. Similarly, the Ostional Wildlife Refuge is famous for its olive ridley and leatherback sea turtle populations. And, of course, there is fantastic surf plus great surf rental shops and surf schools. In fact, many consider Nosara to be one of the best places to learn. (The smaller waves are easier to ride than at other beaches.)

Like most Costa Rican beach spots, there are numerous restaurants and hotels ranging from cheap to expensive. We met a British surfer along a road who found us a two-bedroom house with a kitchen and pool overlooking the rain forest for $30 a night. It even had a grill, which we used to cook up freshly caught lobster tails we picked up from a fisherman on the drive up.

Cabo Matapalo

For us, the most magical beach town in Costa Rica is Cabo Matapalo. Near the Panama border at the outermost point of the Osa peninsula, it’s a remote paradise far off the tourist path. If you want to see wildlife, this is the place. Howler monkeys shook the jungle with their booming calls, while flocks of red blue, green and yellow macaws sailed from tree to tree like crows, and spider monkeys regularly watched us doing dishes. Of course, we could have skipped the jumbo crayfish that occasionally nipped at our toes in the stunning crystal blue waterfalls in Corcovado National Park.

Cabo Matapalo is the only place where we suggest you book a place in advance. There are no hotels, and most of the bungalows were full when we arrived. In fact we were scrambling as the sun was setting, wondering if we were going to have to sleep in the car. That being said, we did manage to find one of the most beautiful places to stay on our whole trip, though I think pretty much anywhere you stay in Cabo Matapalo is awesome. Prices are a little higher here, starting at about $100 a night, but it is well worth it.

There are few sure things in life, but Costa Rica is one of them. I’ve been there many times and plan to keep going. This is not an expensive trip; and for what it delivers, it’s a winner. And please don’t sign up for one of those all-inclusive safe resort packages: You’ll never experience the glory. Go wild, rent a car, rent a board, paddle out, learn as you go and discover the pura vida that is Costa Rica. Who knows, it might change your life. It changes mine every time I go.

If you go

Montezuma: low end, Hotel Lucy (phone 011-506-2642- 0273, hostelz.com/hostel/125438-hotel-lucy; high end, Ylang Ylang (888-795-8494, ylangylangbeachresort.com

Eating: low end, Bakery Cafe (011-506-2642-0458); high end, Playa De Los Artistas (011-506-2642-0920, playamontezuma.net/playadelosartistas.htm

Mal Pais: low end, Mal Pais Surf Camp and Resort (011-506-2640-0061, malpaissurfcamp.com); high end, Beija Flor (011-506-2640-1007, beijaflorresort.com);

Eating: low end, Umi Sushi (011-506-2640-0968); high end, Mary’s Restaurant (011-506-2640-0153, maryscostarica.com/main.html)

Nosara: low end, Rancho Congo (011-506-2682-0078, nicoyapeninsula.com/vacationrentals/nosara-congo); high end, Harmony Hotel (011-506-2682-4114, harmonynosara.com/en/index.html)

Eating: low end, Beach Dog Cafe (tinyurl.com/cy8ken8); high end, La Luna (011-506-2682-0112, tinyurl.com/cmv4t3h)

Cabo Matapalo: all high end, Tucan Terra (tucanterra.com/tucan.html); Lapa Rios (tinyurl.com/cbb8zdd)

Eating: Buena Esperanza Bar (tinyurl.com/dxlnjes)

ctc-travel@tribune.com

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PolyOne Announces Expansion in Costa Rica with Healthcare-Focused Distribution Services posted by on May 23, 2012

23/05/2012 07:29:04

PolyOne Corporation (NYSE: POL), a premier global provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions, has announced it is expanding its successful distribution business into Costa Rica.

PolyOne Corporation (NYSE: POL), a premier global provider of specialized polymer materials, services and solutions, has announced it is expanding its successful distribution business into Costa Rica.

PolyOne’s presence in this new market will initially focus on healthcare applications and could broaden to serve other industries. Operations and logistics, as well as sales and customer service functions, will be located in the city of San Jose, an ideal location in close proximity to many key customers in the region.

“Our operations in Costa Rica will provide value to global healthcare device manufacturers, processors and suppliers by helping them to streamline logistics and simplify inventory management,” said Kurt C. Schuering, president, PolyOne Distribution.

Costa Rica was recently ranked by a World Bank study as the top high-tech exporter in Latin America. The medical industry in Costa Rica is expanding rapidly, with more than 30 medical device companies manufacturing locally.

“Serving the healthcare industry is a core area of expertise for PolyOne, and this recent investment expands our ability to better support customers in this market,” said Robert M. Patterson, executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer, PolyOne Corporation. “Further, adding sales and customer service capabilities in Costa Rica is entirely consistent with our proven strategy to grow our business through global expansion in high-growth markets and regions of the world.”

More info:
www.polyone.com

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Big Hollywood Stars in Movie about Online Gambling in Costa Rica posted by on May 21, 2012

Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Anthony Mackie are some of the actors thus far confirmed in the production of “Runner, Runner“, a film about the online poker industry in Costa Rica. The movie is scheduled for release in 2013, but so far there is no indication that filming will take place in our country.

A previous article in The Costa Rica Star, Haciendas of the Rich and Famous, mentioned the early beginnings of Runner, Runner. It started when Leonardo DiCaprio, star of Titanic and Inception, was dating Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Ms. Bundchen, who eventually married American football star quarterback Tom Brady and purchased a home in Playa Santa Teresa, introduced Mr. DiCaprio to Costa Rica.

Around the time of Bundchen’s wedding to Mr. Brady, Mr. DiCaprio was reportedly in talks with the writers of the classic gambling films Rounders and Ocean’s 13 to produce a new movie about the gritty world of the online betting and gaming industry in Costa Rica. At the time, the film promised to be an exciting look at what goes on behind closed doors at the call centers and server farms in Santa Ana, Río Segundo and the neighborhoods around La Sabana, but it was not clear if it would be about Internet poker or sportsbooks.

The film takes its title from the Texas hold’em variation of poker. A runner-runner is a hand that takes from the both the turn and the river. There were also early expectations that the film would be a sequel to Rounders, but that does not seem to be the case. Various sites that follow Hollywood scripts are calling the film a revenge tale, with Mr. Affleck playing the villainous CEO of an online poker site based in Costa Rica, Mr. Timberlake as his right-hand man, and Mr. Mackie as an American law enforcement agent investigating Mr. Affleck’s character.

What is interesting about Runner, Runner is that both Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Affleck are reported to be avid poker players, part of a Hollywood circuit that counts Matt Damon (who starred in Rounders), Kevin Pollak, Hank Azaria, Tobey McGuire, and others. An in-depth article by Mark Ebner on his popular “Hollywood Interrupted” site, interviews a man who organized high stakes games among the glitterati, and that non-film celebrities such as the late Steve Jobs and Mark Cuban often joined in.

Runner, Runner will start filming in Puerto Rico soon, and will be distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is being directed by Brad Furman, known for The Lincoln Lawyer. We can only hope that the production team decides to film in Costa Rica and take advantage of our fledgling film industry.

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More Insurers Interested In Costa Rican Market posted by on May 21, 2012

The insurance market in Costa Rica continues to attract more players.

The Superintendente de Seguros (Superintendent of Insurance), Javier Cascante, said Sagicor Costa Rica was the latest to receive conditional approval and added that “a couple more” insurance companies are interest in Costa Rica.

With the Sagicor approval last month, Costa Rica now has 12 duly authorized insurance companies.

The head of the Superintendencia General de Seguros (SUGESE) – Superintendent of Insurance – expects the market to continue growing for the remainder of this year, at the same rate in the first four months.

Between January and April of this year, direct premiums reached a total of ¢155 billion coones, an increase of 16% over the same period in 2011.

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Young Scientists from Costa Rica Shine with Projects for the Disabled posted by on May 21, 2012

Perseverance and innovation were the keys to success for two bright young Ticos who elevated Costa Rica’s standing in the international stage earlier this week at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh.

As reported in The Costa Rica Star yesterday, Luis Gerardo Leon and Jose Miguel Gonzalez each took second place awards at the international technology and science competition, which attracted more than 1,500 students from 68 countries. For both Ticos, this was their second time competing at ISEF, and their persistence paid off.

In the case of Luis Gerardo Leon’s impressive project, the RIIS-ED: Prototype of Wheelchair for Quadriplegic People Controlled by Neural Impulses was the highest honor earned by a Latin American entry at the ISEF. The Braille printer project from Jose Miguel Gonzalez was recognized by the United States Patent and Trademark Office Society as a ready-for-production project.

It is important to note that both projects intend to leverage technology to improve the lives of those who live with disabilities.

About Luis Gerardo Leon

This young man from Guanacaste stated in Pittsburgh yesterday that he dedicated his RIIS-ED award not just to Costa Rica, but to Latin America. His RIIS-ED wheelchair is essentially a robot controlled by facial gestures that are translated into neural impulses and further into robotic commands. Luis Gerardo is 17 years old and is a student of the Jose Maria Gutierrez High School in Bagaces.

About Jose Miguel Gonzalez

He is an 18-year old alumnus of the Don Bosco Technical and Professional High School who lives in Escazu. He is currently a student at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), and like Luis Gerardo Leon, this was his second ISEF. His project consists of a run-of-the-mill desktop printer and keyboard transformed into a Braille printing system that stores data and recycles sheets.

The eleven bright young Ticos who participated in ISEF also had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ada Yonath, Chemistry Nobel Laureate. She told the young people assembled at ISEF that:

“Society improves with more science. The more knowledge and scientific advancements, the better the society.”

Vice Minister of Science and Technology Keilor Rojas, who traveled with the young representatives of Costa Rica, underscored that ISEF is not just an academic exercise for the contestants:

“Costa Rica is on the right track as far as her intellectual economy. Here we have people with ideas and the potential to turn them into business. The young people today understand this better than the adults: science and technology projects do not simply end at the blueprint level; they are rather completed and turn to reality when they benefit society, or when they create businesses and enterprises that form part of the economic foundation of the country.”

The proud students will return to Costa Rica on Saturday night.

Source: Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT)

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English Language Programming Snubbed by Costa Rica Cable TV Operators posted by on May 21, 2012

Anglophiles and English language learners in Costa Rica who are accustomed to getting their linguistic fix from the local cable operators have been noticing drastic changes in popular channels like Cinecanal and Cinemax.

As reported on the popular consumer protection blog “Quien Paga, Manda” (an adage similar to “the customer is always right”), those two movie channels on Cabletica recently switched off their original English programming and replaced it with films and series dubbed into Spanish. Subtitles are gone, as well as the Second Audio Program (SAP) feed.

The Cabletica subscriber who reported the change also wondered if he had any legal recourse in the matter, namely breach of contract or non-performance of an agreement. He sees the sudden change as arbitrary and points out the following concerns:
Many subscribers in Costa Rica signed up for cable TV because they are native English speakers, or they otherwise enjoy programming in the original language.
Even more subscribers signed up to improve their mastery of English as a Second Language (ESL), something that has become a driving factor of the labor economy in Costa Rica.
Subscribers with hearing difficulties or impairments enjoyed subtitles on channels that do not broadcast close captioning encoding.
Eliminating SAP is a harsh measure that leaves viewers without alternatives.

Cinecanal and Cinemax are apparently not the only channels to have suffered the above-described fate. Cable viewers have complained that channels that traditionally make up the basic programming package are being replaced by Latin American versions in which the shows are dubbed, no subtitles are offered, and SAP is absent.

According to Gabriel Zamora, an attorney at the Zamora Baudrit law firm, there is practically zero protection for consumers in this case, particularly since it is unlikely that the cable operators made any guarantees to prevent the vanishing of English language programs.

Blog readers at Quien Paga Manda offered their opinions and knowledge of the matter. Cabletica is not alone in this practice; Amnet, a cable operator that has been around longer, also engages in this practice, which also involves blaming the content providers while at the same time offering the original channels as part of their High Definition (HD) premium packages. Is it simply a matter of squeezing more money from the subscribers who want their channels in their full English glory by forcing them to pay for HD programming?

According to an explanation in newspaper La Nacion from Argentina, the change has a lot to do with demographics and socioeconomic transformation in Latin America.

English Language Programming in Costa Rica Started with Generation X

For those old enough to remember Costa Rica in the mid-to-late 1980s, cable television was only accessible to a select few who were not only able to afford it, but who also lived in ritzy neighborhoods of San Jose served by Cable Color (the precursor to Amnet). Back then English programming ruled cable channel lineups, but those who could not afford to live in Los Yoses and subscribe to Cable Color had a great alternative: Channel 19 on the UHF band.

Channel 19 one day appeared on the free airwaves of Costa Rica; it was essentially a WGN broadcast from Chicago during the daytime, and sometimes HBO or MTV at night. Just like Cable Color, it was 100 percent in English, and the channel introduced young Ticos to a world of programming that included GI Joe, the Transformers, Soul Train, and the Chicago Cubs with Ryan Sandberg on second base.

Tuning to channel 19 was a low-tech process that involved fashioning an antenna from broom sticks, chicken wire, aluminum foil, forks, etc. Channel 19 was probably responsible for boosting the interest of English among Generation X Ticos, although cable television would eventually cast aside channel 19 with virtually the same programming seen in the United States. Channel 19 is rumored to be making a comeback, and it could be timely considering the cold shoulder that some cable channels have given to original English programs.

Here is where socioeconomic and demographic change comes into play: basic cable television can now be afforded by many more subscribers in Costa Rica, not just those in the upper classes. Low-income basic cable subscribers are more interested in watching and listening to programs in Spanish. Viewers older than 50 years of age form part of the fastest-rising population in Costa Rica, and there is a generation gap between them and the Generation X Ticos raised on channel 19: they are not as interested in English language programming.

Should the snub trend of original English programming by cable companies in Costa Rica continue, Ticos and expats will always have options like Netflix and Crackle.

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Call Centers in Costa Rica Employ 16,000 People While Developing A Middle Class posted by on May 21, 2012

Call centers are often linked to telemarketing, but this is just one of the many business functions performed by call centers. Call centers may focus on one of the following business functions, or operate campaigns that cover many different functions:
Inbound sales, where customers are responding to an advertisement.
Outbound sales using client provided call lists.
Lead generation through qualifying customers calling about a sales promotion.
Market research by conducting surveys.
Processing of product orders from customers.
Customer support through providing help desk functions.
Technical support for particular products.
Appointment setting.
Credit and billing problems, including collections.
Cellphone activation.
Fundraising for charities.
Cause related marketing.
Direct response to TV / Radio marketing.
Sports booking.

Call centers essentially perform any business function that involves person-to-person contact over a voice connection. Costa Rica is the home of a number of corporate call centers, including Bank of America, HP, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, and Western Union. Independent call centers range in size for super call centers, such as Sykes Costa Rica with 3200 employees, to operations run from a home with one or two employees. There are no statistics regarding the number of call centers in Costa Rica. Richard Blank (CEO of Costa Rica’s Call Center) estimates that there may be as many as 300 call centers operating in Costa Rica. With just over a 100 seats (employees actually making the calls), Costa Rica’s Call Center represents a mid-sized call center.

If the number of call centers is hard to estimate, the number of workers employed by call centers is even more difficult to determine. According to the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), the offshore service sector employs 1.4% of the Costa Rican labor force, with contact centers employing about 50% of this offshore service sector. With a total work force of 2.3 million in Costa Rica, this results in about 16,000 workers being employed by call centers. The CINDE report “Costa Rica Human Capital Cost – Services Sector” (PDF download) estimates the average wages for call center workers, as follows: Job Position Monthly
Average Monthly Average +
Mandatory Benefits
Call Center Clerk $533 $717
Contact Center Manager $4323 $5814
Contact Center Quality Inspector $1320 $1775
Contact Center Team Leader $1623 $2183
Intermediate Bilingual Agent $981 $1320
Junior Bilingual Agent $952 $1281
Spanish Agent $767 $1032
Senior Bilingual Agent $1019 $1370
Workforce Coordinator $2317 $3116

The above table reflects the average salaries for September 2011, when the exchange rate was 510 colones equaled one US Dollar. The Mandatory Benefits includes the Christmas Bonus, which is equal to one month of pay.

The A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index for 2011 ranks Costa Rica as #19 in the world for outsourcing, and #4 in Latin America. The GSLI report points out that cost competitiveness is becoming a major challenge for Costa Rica. Nearshore Americas, in their article “Latin America’s Ranking Reflects, ‘Intensifying’ of IT, BPO Skill,” points out that El Salvador and Honduras are leveraging their lower labor costs to attract nearshore business. While price competition presents a serious challenge, Costa Rica still holds an edge according to CR Technology Insight, which points out that Costa Rica is #1 for innovation in Latin America, #3 for network readiness, #3 for property rights index, and #4 for high technology exporter.

The recent article on smartphone growth statistics illustrates the growing importance of smartphones on purchase decisions by consumers. The smartphone shortens the time between seeing a product of interest and acting on the decision to purchase the product. Once the consumer fills out a request, or contacts an 800 number, the call center comes into play. The call center acts either as an order processing center, or qualifies the lead. The qualified lead is then passed to either the client, or another part of the call center operation. Marketing to a potential customer, who has expressed an interest in a product, generates far more sales than attempts at marketing using “cold call” lists.

Internet forums and discussions on social media services, such as Facebook, created a self-help culture. This phenomenon reflects the frustration of many consumers, whose contact at a help desk does not speak good English. Consumers want an answer, and want one that they can understand. In many cases, the self-help groups may solve the problems. Without the presence of an official company representative, these forums may also give misinformation. In these cases, the work for the help desk representative is more complicated, as they must correct the misinformation, and then provide the correct solution. Help desks will remain as a vital operation for call centers, as they are the official company representative, who can also take corrective actions, such as authorizations for return, or corrections to billings. In both quality of English language speakers and understanding of technology, Costa Rica has an advantage over call centers located in the Philippines and India.

In terms of outsourcing, call centers are part of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). BPO includes many other business process, such as accounting, back office operations, and payroll. BPO, itself, is part of services outsourcing. Other services outsourcing areas are Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), and the new area of Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). There are Costa Rica businesses involved in all areas of service outsourcing.

I wish to thank Richard Blank of Costa Rica’s Call Centers for sharing his knowledge of call centers in Costa Rica, and for acting as a soundboard for my ideas on this article.

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Weekend Getaways: 72 Hours in Tamarindo, Costa Rica posted by on May 21, 2012

onging for surf, sun, and sand? Hop on a flight to Liberia, a western Costa Rican hub that’s an hour-and-a-half from the cute beach town of Tamarindo. Here, you can join bikinied surfers in catching breaks, or stroll with the combers ambling along the two-mile Pacific strand.

You’ll stay a ten-minute walk from town at Cala Luna, a 41-room hotel with myriad design schemes (thatching! seashell-fringed lamps!) across the street from the beach (doubles from $295). Or the also-beachfront Hotel Capitán Suizo, which is right on the water (doubles from $165).

On your first morning, arrange an excursion with Arenas Adventures. You might spend a few hours revving an ATV through the thick of the rain forest—spotting howler monkeys, eagles, tropical birds, and iguanas—before emerging onto one of southern Tamarindo’s isolated beaches. You could also take surfing or wake-boarding lessons, rent a kayak, or traverse the rain forest canopy via zip-line (one-hour ATV tours from $39 per person). Recover back at the hotel by lying on the golden sand, then head into town for a tamarind margarita and sunset-viewing at Nogui’s Sunset Café, Tamarindo’s oldest restaurant—established 1974 (Tamarindo Circle; 506-2653-0029; appetizers from $3). Dinner is grilled lobster and salade niçoise at Nibbana Beach Bar & Restaurant, where the tables are in the sand, tucked between palm trees (entrées from $15).

On your last morning, get up early to snag a beach chair at Le Beach Club, where you can sunbathe and sip mimosas before brunching on buttery shrimp or whole red snapper at Copacabana (Tamarindo Blvd.; 506-2653-0872; entrées from $12). And hey, order a caipirinha or two—it might make your departure seem a little less dire.

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